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Awesome Bench Chisels!

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Review by fatman51 posted 06-18-2016 07:15 AM 7878 views 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Awesome Bench Chisels! Awesome Bench Chisels! Awesome Bench Chisels! Click the pictures to enlarge them

For a good couple of decades, I got by just fine with a 9 piece set of Stanley # 60/professional hinge butt mortising chisels that my father bought for me new when I was in middle school.

I have no idea what ever happened to the original 1-1/4 inch chisel. I keep hoping that I will find it in my truck.

Given the fact that I always got my work done, I cannot make an honest argument that I ever needed more chisels but over the last decade, the folks at the local flea market have sold me another full mixed set of Stanley #60/handyman butt chisels for my work truck and encouraged me to collect other random chisels including many of these:


I should do a review on that Ray Iles mortising chisel. The thing is a serious chunk of iron!

Or those on the left: (The handles of which were the subject of a recent project: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/252362)

Lacking a dire need for them, my budget was limited, but I was in the market for a proper set of bench chisels. In recent years, whenever I have made the forty minute drive to visit the local Woodcraft store, I have found myself looking overlong at the Irwin’s or the Stanley Sweetheart socket chisels. I have often considered the fact that neither of these sets were outside of my budget but neither set really seemed sufficiently superior to the chisels that I already had. Naturally I am proud of Stanley for finding their way out of the bench chisel dark ages but, however nice, these chisels were not right for my needs. The Irwin’s are a decent tool and they come closer to being the bench chisel I was after, but the fit and finish is not always the best, the handles are too “plasticky”, and, of course, I am mad at Irwin for reducing “Marples” to a marketing scheme. Still shopping, I spent hours online, looking at vintage sets on ebay, Veritus, Lee Neilson, Two Cherries, Crown, Ashley Iles, and others, but nothing really seemed right until I discovered the Narex chisels that are for sale on the Lee Valley website, Amazon, EBay, Highland Woodworking, and a few other outlets online.

I researched the Narex chisels, read all about the company, and discussed them with friends. Narex Bystrice has an interesting history and offers a nice selection of quality woodworking hand tools and screwdrivers. One of my brothers had once seen an older version of the Narex bevel edge chisels for sale at a local retailer and he thought that they had seemed like a decent tool. Encouraged, I read a good number of online reviews from regular people, well known master craftsmen, and from reputable publications. Finally, I decided to risk my money. I ordered the 10 piece imperial set of beveled edge chisels from Lee Valley and a 3 millimeter from Taylor Tool Works’ EBay store. All total, I spent $153.99 on the 11 piece set and then I had a week or two to reflect on the wisdom of my purchase. ($128.00+$12.00 shipping from Lee valley, 13.99 and free shipping from TTW) I worked on the octagonal handles for the little chisels in the review noted above while I anxiously waited for my new Narex tools to arrive.

Posting the pictures of so many different chisels is my way of pointing out that I have used a lot of different types, I like different chisels for different purposes, and I knew exactly what I was looking for in a bench chisel. The question I kept asking myself was whether or not I had ordered what I wanted. I had no way of knowing until they arrived. The tools arrived before I was done with my octagonal handles and I was relieved to find that I had made a wise purchase. I had read one review comparing the Narex bevel edge chisels to the Lei Nielsen socket chisels. ( https://fairwoodworking.wordpress.com/category/strong-opinion-warning/page/2/ just scroll down through all of the nonsense until you find it.) The review proclaimed the Narex chisels to be functionally equal to the more expensive Lie Neilson tools, but less attractive. I disagree. I think that they are a beautiful, well balanced, tool. My set has the big, dark stained handles with hoops and ferrules and I have found these large handles to be a good fit for my big fat hands. They are well made, precisely ground, and they take a great cutting edge. Naturally, the chisel irons have mill marks and a coat of lacquer from the factory but I did not need to regrind any of the cutting edges, as they were even and square with the nicely beveled edges. A few strokes on some fine grit sand paper showed me that the backs were surprisingly flat and it only took a few moments on each chisel to flatten the back of each chisel sufficiently to to assure a chisel suitable for pairing with a straight cutting edge. A few more strokes on the front removed the lacquer and mill marks, producing a sharp chisel. I should note that the mill marks on the backs of most of the chisels were well on their way to disappearing by the time I was done. I could have polished them further, I suppose, but mirrors are for checking one’s hair and I am too bald for all of that. The cutting edges were straight and square and that is the purpose of the exercise.

I have used the 1-1/4 inch chisel extensively over the last few weeks as I worked with cherry and honey locust. Thus far, I have not needed to sharpen the tool again. It has held its edge. I honestly do not know how these tools measure up to the $400.00 to $1000.00 chisel sets I see for sale, but they are as good as any chisel I own and better than most. They are certainly a decent tool for the price and having used them, I would pay double without thinking twice. I am including one last photo for the purpose of visually comparing these tools with other popular models. 1/8”, Irwin, 3/8” Stanley Socket chisel, 1” Stanley # 40, Stanley 2” butt chisel.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin




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fatman51

335 posts in 1986 days



21 comments so far

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2259 posts in 1213 days


#1 posted 06-18-2016 11:07 AM

I have the same set, John. About ”... I would pay double without thinking twice…,”: I got mine for little more than half the price. I don’t recall where. But I do know it wasn’t Lee Nielson. Probably, the Woodworking Show. Likely Peachtree, or some such. I already had my set of perfectly serviceable Irwins, so, I know I wouldn’t have been interested in them at your price. I agree. They’re very nice fichisels. Although, I most often reach for the Irwins.

-- Mark

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

2724 posts in 2340 days


#2 posted 06-18-2016 12:07 PM

Nice review, very informative, interesting reading.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View fatman51's profile

fatman51

335 posts in 1986 days


#3 posted 06-18-2016 12:51 PM

Thanks, Oldtool. Mark, I really did come close to purchasing the Irwins instead of these but this set was a little cheaper than the full set of Irwin’s at this juncture, better finished, and these were true imperials sizes. The Narex sets I was able to find for less money were metric and the irwin set i looked at at Woodcraft was of the mm//x/y variety. Of course, I am not an overly savvy internet shopper and I seldom am able to attend trade shows, but I do hope people are still able to find the same set for less money.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View jonah's profile

jonah

1845 posts in 3448 days


#4 posted 06-18-2016 04:52 PM

I have the smaller set of four Narex chisels, and I love them. I wish I’d sprung for the larger set of 7 or 11, but I’ll settle for adding to my set as I need to.

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TheFridge

10360 posts in 1635 days


#5 posted 06-18-2016 05:14 PM

As long as you’re happy. The narex are definitely solid. If they didn’t butcher the milling on a couple of mine I’d probably still have their mortising chisel set. It held an edge well. Better than my LN? No. I think that guy just likes to look at his own blogs.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View fatman51's profile

fatman51

335 posts in 1986 days


#6 posted 06-18-2016 05:26 PM

On the other hand Jonah, I do not know that I really had to have all 11 chisels. The four piece set plus the 1-14 probably would have met my needs. TheFridge, I think you are probably right about that guy on the LN to Narex comparison. The other people’s LNs I have used were probably worth the money they cost, but impossible for me to justify. It is too bad you got a bad mortising chisel set. I am planning to add that set and the paring set over the next couple of years. Naturally, I will write reviews.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

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TheFridge

10360 posts in 1635 days


#7 posted 06-18-2016 05:37 PM

To each his own I think. I bought one 1/2” LN and it took me a year to fill out the rest. I now have their large router, dovetail saw and 4-1/2 as well. I didn’t know if the cost was justified until I used one 1/2” chisel for a couple months. Then I was convinced.

I’m sure yours will serve you just as well.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View fatman51's profile

fatman51

335 posts in 1986 days


#8 posted 06-18-2016 06:38 PM



To each his own I think. I bought one 1/2” LN and it took me a year to fill out the rest. I now have their large router, dovetail saw and 4-1/2 as well. I didn t know if the cost was justified until I used one 1/2” chisel for a couple months. Then I was convinced.

I m sure yours will serve you just as well.

- TheFridge


Rather, they will serve me well enough, I can live with the fact that they are not as nice of a tool. All the LN users I know love their tools and I like them too as far as that goes. They are kind of like the Snapons of the woodworking world and the fact that they are made in the USA carries a lot of weight with some workers I know also. If I did not own so much quality stuff from yesteryear I would probably look at LN more seriously, but I can still remember scraping money together to buy Diston, Stanley, Record, and even Snap On tools, one item at a time, when I was young and it pleases me to see decent, affordable, products such as the Narex stuff on the market today. They kind of remind me of the affordable decent quality stuff once sold by consumer grade suppliers such as Greatneck or Wen. New Journeyman and apprentices do not really need Snap On or Lie Nielsen, they do need to quickly assemble the best basic tool sets they can afford to do their jobs without depriving their babies of formula. My poor wife used to get so riled up when I would spend too much of our money on tools…its a wonder she stuck with me for so long. Some may disagree, where others proudly buy junk, but purchasing the best tools is not so wise as purchasing the best tools one can afford that will meet one’s needs. That is why I like companies like Narex and why I will purchase their product over more expensive brands that I might afford today. Their tools are adequate and necessary where the Lie Nielsen tools are just really, really nice.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View WillliamMSP's profile

WillliamMSP

1084 posts in 1754 days


#9 posted 06-19-2016 08:31 PM

Thanks for the review! I’ve been happy with my Narex mortise chisel and will probably add a few more widths.


I bought one 1/2” LN and it took me a year to fill out the rest. I now have their large router, dovetail saw and 4-1/2 as well. I didn t know if the cost was justified until I used one 1/2” chisel for a couple months. Then I was convinced.

- TheFridge

See, this makes me want to take the LN one chisel challenge…. aaaand it makes me want to avoid taking the LN one chisel challenge – don’t know that my pocketbook can take it. ;)

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View JoeinGa's profile

JoeinGa

7739 posts in 2156 days


#10 posted 06-19-2016 10:17 PM

Ok, so I have a question. This 10 piece chisel set you show lists for $128 on the Lee Valley website. I spotted this 12 piece set of Narex on both Amazon and Ebay for like $120.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00Z55BB8A/ref=ox_sc_act_title_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A1F0ZX9W2WURWY

Other then the color of the handles, is there an actual difference in the chisel itself? In other words, does Narex make chisels in “Good, Better, Best” styles?

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View fatman51's profile

fatman51

335 posts in 1986 days


#11 posted 06-20-2016 12:10 AM

Thanks Bill and it’s a conundrum isn’t it. Outfits like LN make wonderful tools, but expensive, in part, because the tools come ready to use.. For me, the expense would be easier to rationalize than to justify, and I would really have to justify it to the wife.

Good day JoeinGa! the 12 piece set with the clear coated beach handles are metric, where the 10 piece set with stained handles from Lee Valley are imperial (fractional) sizes. Narex does make two different grades of bevel edged chisels. The premium line has hornbeam handles and they do not have a hoop, only a ferrule. Their imperial set includes normal sizes from 1/8 to 1 inch where their premium metric set ranges from something like 3 to 50 mm. I seem to recall that their premium metric set has a couple of different sizes from their ordinary set, but I might be wrong on that. Some people prefer metric, some imperial, some don’t care which they get, and others want them all. The imperial set sold at Lee Valley seems unique to Lee Valley but everything else seems to be available on amazon and ebay including the premium imperial sets.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View CyberDyneSystems's profile

CyberDyneSystems

288 posts in 2338 days


#12 posted 06-20-2016 04:09 PM

Great review and story, thanks for posting.

I rank the Narex well above the current Irwin, which are no longer made in Sheffield. (China in fact)
For a while, the Irwin branded blue chips were being made in the same factory as the prior Marples, and were of equal quality, but its been nearly a decade since they moved production to China.

I do have some older made in Sheffield Marples Blue chips and the other more durable yellow handled Marples as well, and the English steel is superior to the Chinese.

Many rate the Narex chisels as a “best buy” and I would agree.

P.S. anyone looking for actual Sheffield steel with a blue handle should look to “Footprint” Chisels available at woodcraft, and Amazon.

-- Without the wood, it's just working

View fatman51's profile

fatman51

335 posts in 1986 days


#13 posted 06-20-2016 11:10 PM

Thank you, CyberDynesSystems

I was just looking at the newest Irwins at the local Woodcraft store yesterday and now that I can visually compare them to the Narex, I am even happier with my choice. Frankly, I like my Narex chisels better than anything I saw in the Woodcraft store yesterday. I have one of the yellow handled Marples chisels and it has been a good tool.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View Douglas's profile

Douglas

424 posts in 2709 days


#14 posted 06-21-2016 04:55 PM

I bought the 11-12 piece Narex set about 4 or 5 years ago, as my first set of “real’ woodworking chisels. I think they are a great value, and are good chisels. But I shouldn’t have got that many chisels. I think 4-5 are all you need, and that big set is just overkill. Also, I can tell that their edges do tend to crumble a little too quickly for my taste. Not fast, but they just don’t last as long as I think they should. This was fine as was learning to get my sharpening skills and system down, but now that I know what to look for, I think I’ll trade up. I’ll be looking for those 4-5 LV chisels or vintage Stanley 750s if I can find them.

-- Douglas in Chicago - https://dcwwoodworks.com

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8436 posts in 2478 days


#15 posted 06-21-2016 05:18 PM

How do you like that old yellow and red handled Marples Split Proof?

I purchased a 5 pc set of these ~20 years ago and they seem very similar to the Narex in both metal and handle shape.

-- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

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